It is a severe episode of mental illness which begins suddenly in the days or weeks after having a baby (129). Symptoms vary and can change rapidly. They can include high mood (mania), depression, confusion, hallucinations and delusions. Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency. You should seek help as quickly as possible.
Postpartum psychosis is different from postnatal depression and Baby Blues. It is a more severe illness.
There are many different ways the illness can start. Women often have symptoms of depression or mania or a mixture of these. Symptoms can change very quickly from hour to hour and from one day to the next.
There are many symptoms that occur in postpartum psychosis. These may include
* feeling “high”, “manic” or “on top of the world”, low mood and tearfulness, rapid changes in mood,
* anxiety or irritability,
* severe confusion,
* being restless and agitated,
* racing thoughts,
* behaviour that is out of character, being more talkative, active and sociable than usual, being very withdrawn and not talking to people,
* finding it hard to sleep, or not wanting to sleep;
* losing your inhibitions,
* feeling paranoid, suspicious, fearful;
* hallucinations: this means you see, hear, feel or smell things that aren’t really there;
* feeling as if you’re in a dream world;
* delusions: these are odd thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true. For example, you might believe you have won the lottery (129).
* You may not be able to look after yourself as well as you would when you are well.
* Your symptoms may make it very difficult for you to look after your baby.
If you have postpartum psychosis you may not realize you are ill. Your partner, family or friends may recognise that something is wrong and need to ask for help (129).
What help is available if I develop postpartum psychosis?
If you, your partner or family think that you have symptoms of postpartum psychosis, you need to be seen urgently. If you have been told during pregnancy that you have a high risk of postpartum psychosis, you may have a care plan. This should include emergency contact numbers for your mental health team or local crisis service (129).
It takes time for women to recover from an episode of postpartum psychosis (129).
In the long term being willing to talk about your experiences may aid recovery. Postpartum psychosis is often followed by a period of depression, anxiety, and low social confidence. It can take time to come to terms with what has happened to you. It’s normal to feel some sadness for missing out on early motherhood. It can take time to rebuild confidence in relationships and friendships. Most women get back to feeling like their usual selves again (129).
Counselling or couple therapy may be helpful for some couples (129).
Seek advice about getting expert help from a psychologist, psychotherapist or counsellor (129).